by Rav Yaakov bar Nahman
Hhayei Sarah 5952/5772
[Bereisheet/Genesis 23:1] "And the life of Sarah was a hundred and seven and twenty years; these were the years of the life of Sarah." Why didn't Torah simply say that Sarah was 120 years old when she died? Pay attention that it doesn't mention death at all.
Sarah Imeinu (our mother), among other fine traits, was the full partner of her husband Avraham in their trait of kindness to others.
In this opening issue of this week's parashah we have the real estate deal for the burial site for Sarah. Avraham openly stated that he was ready to pay the going price for the piece of land. Efron the Hittite said that he would it to him for free – no money. [23:11] "Nay my lord, hear me; the field and the cave that is therein, I give it to you; in the presence of my people I give it to you; bury your dead."
However we are soon to find that this was a mere ploy and that he actually demanded an exorbitant sum. Even with the witness of many of his tribe members he did the double speak trick. Sound familiar from today's news? Pay attention too that the Pharaoh of Egypt who initiated the slavery of the Bnei Yisrael a few generations later was actually a Hittite. 400 trade shekels for a relatively small piece of wild land in an area not fit for agriculture and a mysterious cave in its midst that radiated some unfathomable sensation that actually caused great fear to any Hittite etc who dared approach and therefore was unmarketable, was really gauging. Even if it had been prime land that price in those days should have bought a plot at least five times the size.
Some "I give it to you"…. What kind of character trait do we see here in this Hittite and his people who said nothing when the trick was performed before their eyes?
Further on in our parashah we see Eli'ezer, Avraham's chief servant being sent to Aram to find a bride for Yisshhak. He went with a veritable treasury and ten men who would obey his commands. He could have gone off and started a tribe of his own somewhere with him as tribal chief. After all he had been the son of a king (Nimrod). He could have taken a bride for himself too. Avraham could never have done a thing about it. But he didn't, because he learned the way of good traits from his master.
Next we see little Rivka, 3 years old, being sent by her father to bring home pitchers of water. First of all, consider the actions of the father to demand such work from a 3 year old girl. Then think of the phenomenal trait of the little girl to water all those men and their camels. Each camel drinks 120 liters of water, do the math yourself!
Then we have the attempt by Lavan and Bethuel to poison Eli'ezer so that they can steal the goods and still keep Rivka. Oof, what character traits.
Now we know that Torah is here to teach us. We have learned that we must study Torah again amd again throughout our lives.
Now let me give you a whack with a two-by-four between the eyes.
A person can sit in a study hall day and night for 60 years straight, pass away and when he stands before the judges in Heaven be asked, "Why did you waste your life? Why did you never study Torah?"
When he recovers from the shock of the question he will say, "What do mean? Look at the heavenly video of my life and see how I did indeed sit and study all those years."
To which he will be replied, "We also look at what you did, what you felt and thought, what character traits you developed and did not develop. You may have read millions of words written in many Torah study books. Yet you did not permit the Torah to improve your character. Therefore it is considered that you never studied at all!"
Yes folks, that is the shocking truth. We heard this directly from our venerable teacher Rav Shalom Arush Shlit"a may HaShem protect him and give him a long healthy happy fulfilling life. He told us all the places in our Holy books that back his statements 100%.
Think about it. Realize that Torah study is not merely a history book, or a set of nice folk tales. It is a handbook for living. Its main purpose is to teach us how we must live. That goes for Jews and Bnei Noahh alike by the way. Just as HaShem shows us that HE is patient, so we must learn to be patient. Just as Hashem shows how HE is merciful, so we must learn to be merciful. . Just as HaShem shows us that HE is kind and charitable, so we must do so too. And so on with all the great traits of HaShem.
Without decent character traits a human is worse than an animal!
In Gemara Taanit (fasts) section 2 we read of a Roman soldier who sought to kill two Jews for the blood libel on the death of the Caesar's daughter. They told him point blank that he is no better than a bear or a lion, not even on the level of a human at all. The end was that immediately after he killed those two pious Jews, two high officers of the Caesar entered with an execution order on him, and killed him on the spot. HaShem let people know that he demands payment for the blood of his people.
Anyhow back to our lesson on the parashah. Torah study is only Torah study when you improve your character traits. Bottom line!
That is the message. Now it's your turn.